Sit-in achieves goals Tuesday night

Teacher/City Commissioner explains events of meeting sit-in

By Meredith Chapple

On Tuesday, September 6, a 45-minute sit-in took place at the Lawrence City Commission meeting.

The sit-in consisted of about 20 members of the Black Lives Matter movement and Native Americans opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

The events leading up to the sit-in began about three weeks ago, City Commissioner and government teacher Matthew Herbert said.

At a meeting with Black Lives Matter, the Lawrence City Commission and the Chief of Police, the groups discussed issues they saw with policing and how to change them. The Lawrence City Commission then promised to write an official statement stating their support for those who face oppression, Herbert said. However, after that meeting, they had a two-week break and could not write the letter immediately.

“Because of the restrictions placed upon us by the Kansas Open Meetings Act, we were not legally able to meet as a group to draft such a letter and the decision was made that we would draft the letter during the ‘commission items’ section of the September 6th meeting,” Herbert said via email. “This was the first time we would meet publicly as a group since making the pledge.”

Members of the Black Lives Matter movement and Dakota Access Pipeline protesters attended the meeting and, following the public section, staged the sit-in on a private section intended for City Commission members. The group requested an immediate draft of the statement of the City Commission’s support.

We absolutely want a diversity of voices present at our Tuesday night meetings and hope that members of the public who wish to have their voices heard aren’t waiting on a personal invitation, but rather just come out and let their voices be heard. ”

— Matthew Herbert

The group’s sit-in evidently worked; yesterday, the Commission met at 11:30 a.m. to write letters of solidarity with the groups.

“It is truly unfortunate that the events played out this way as, despite the commission planning to address the item in “commission items” of that evening’s meeting, protesters’ insistence that the letter be drafted immediately gives the appearance that the letter was forced and therefore not highly heartfelt,” Herbert said.

All City Commission meetings are open to the public, and Herbert encourages citizen attendance.

“It concerns me that our citizens do not know that all city commissions are always open to all members of the public,” Herbert said. “We absolutely want a diversity of voices present at our Tuesday night meetings and hope that members of the public who wish to have their voices heard aren’t waiting on a personal invitation, but rather just come out and let their voices be heard.”